Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Kathleen M. Baker

Second Advisor

Dr. David Lemberg

Third Advisor

Dr. Todd Barkman


Clay, bluff, community, comparison, erosion

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


The clay bluffs of Michigan are a natural community found along the shores of the Great Lakes. Groundwater is found to be critical to sustaining the alkaline wetlands on the face of the bluff as well as the source of most erosion events. The clay bluffs are unusual in their vegetation, disturbance regime and geographical context. This thesis focuses primarily on describing seeping clay bluffs and exploring the comparison to other natural communities. The purpose of this is twofold, to better understand the ways in which natural communities are described as distinct from one another, and to assess the distinctness of seeping clay bluffs as a community type. Jaccard's index and hierarchical clustering can be used to comparevascular plants, landscape context and morphological characteristics of many different natural communities. These results suggest that clay bluffs are a distinct community.

Further research is needed to locate additional examples of seeping clay bluffs in Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as other Great Lakes states and provinces. Comparisons to other bluffs, seeping and dry, should be made to evaluate the value in recognizing their distinctiveness.